"He really belonged to an older Baltimore, and it was far more charming than the Rotarian Gehenna we endure today. He was one of its genuine notables, though he got into the newspapers very seldom. What kept him out was mainly his own surpassing amiability: he was completely innocent of that yearning to harass the neighbors which commonly passes among us as public spirit. If he ever made a speech it must have been before I met him, which was more than 30 years ago. When the Babbitts of the town held a banquet and afflicted one another sadly he stayed at home… or went to a beerhouse for a decent evening with his friends. When a public committee was appointed to improve mankind and solve the insoluble he was not on it."
So went a eulogy by H.L. Mencken (pictured) for a just-departed friend in 1932. I rise now to heap similar encomiums on Louis Mueller, though he is long gone, and I know him only from a front-page article in The Milwaukee Journal 100 years ago.
"Milwaukee man Downtown for the first time in 31 years," was the headline over the May 18, 1915 story about the 45-year-old Mueller getting his first gander at City Hall, Juneau Park and the 15-story Wells Building, the city’s then-tallest skyscraper.
Mueller had been Downtown once as a child, but since then had never traveled farther east than 12th and Wisconsin Ave. He lived on 23rd St.
"I never had any business Downtown, so I stayed at home," he explained. "I work every day [at the National Stamp & Enamel Co.], and when I get home I am tired and am ready to go to bed. On Sundays I stay at home or visit some friends in the neighborhood. We have a game of cards and then I go home.
"Why," asked Mueller, "should a man be running around town when he can stay at home?"
Asked about all the Downtown attractions whose magnificence he was depriving himself of, Mueller responded:
"Ach, why should I want to see those places? At home by the fire in winter or on the front porch in summer is good enough for me. Unless I am compelled to go, it will be another 31 years before I come down again."
Louis Mueller obviously was happy here and appreciated the things that are the real hallmarks of a vibrant and livable city – good and safe streets, companionable neighbors. He was part of no movement and didn’t inflict his personal enthusiasms on his fellow citizens and demand that they pony up to support them. He didn’t worry about whether Milwaukee was a major- or minor-league city, and he was anesthetic to the gospel of boosterism and civic pride-for-all-the-wrong-reasons still incessantly hymned today by people who wring their hands over what they must think of us in Chicago and New York, and warn that without tax-bolstered professional sports teams and other such geegaws Milwaukee will become Des Moines-on-a-lake (speaking of which, Des Moines has had 11 murders this year to our 129).
Louis Mueller quietly went his own way and bothered no one. "The champion ‘home man,’" The Journal article called him (and he had 10 children to prove it).
To me, that just about puts him up there with Solomon Juneau.